x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

US infrastructure, healthcare to get boost from UAE’s economic diversification plan

US defence sales to UAE may increase if military sales fast tracked

US companies such as Parsons and Cleveland Clinic that specialise in infrastructure and health care are set to be the biggest beneficiaries of the UAE’s push to diversify its economy away from oil, according to participants at a UAE-US business conference.

Defence and security companies such as Lockheed Martin are also receiving a boost from heightened geopolitical tensions; the sector may benefit from the possible easing of rules in the US that make sales of new defence and aerospace technologies difficult to sell abroad.

“We really need [to] align ourselves with the vision of what the country is trying to do, and so obviously the sectors that are most influenced by that our healthcare, aerospace and defence, especially [as] president Trump’s first visit out of Washington was to ... this part of the world,” said Sharief Fahmy, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Fahmy was speaking on the sidelines of the ninth annual Amcham Abu Dhabi roundtable summit that brought together over 100 representatives of US companies and UAE businessmen and government officials. Speakers included Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, Barbara Leaf, the US ambassador to the UAE, and Brian Lott, chair of the AmCham Roundtable Committee.

In recent years, the UAE has ramped up its efforts to diversify its economy in the aftermath of the oil crash of 2014 that shaved than more than 70 per cent from the price of oil. It has done that by boosting manufacturing and bolstering transportation and trade.

“The UAE has been extremely visionary,“ said Dao M Le, counsellor for regional affairs at the US Embassy. “They came out with diversification before it became a word.

“If you look at a chess board, you always want to make sure you have your four corners covered. If you look at what the UAE has done, they have managed all four corners, first with trade in Jebel Ali, then global transportation with two five star airlines which we have helped supply.

“In the third corner, you have tourism and the last corner technology. In all these areas it creates opportunities for American companies to help them.”

Trade between the UAE and US reached nearly US$26 billion (Dh95.5bn) in 2016. Of that figure, more than $22bn took the form of imports from the US to the UAE, with the Emirates the US’s top export market in the region for the past eight years. More than 1,000 US companies operate in the UAE.

Defence and security companies have traditionally made up the biggest portion of US exports to the UAE and may get a boost if rules on selling military equipment are streamlined to make the sales quicker.

“Anything that gets sold needs to get congressional approval,” Mr Fahmy said.

The tone coming out of Washington seems more friendly to reducing the time line. There are other countries that are beating us to the punch when it comes to selling articles. There are good initiatives that will help our members. American goods on the defence side have been seen far ahead of their markets.”